Donal Skehan

A Fuss-Free Christmas Menu…

Donal Profile Image Xmas 2 copy

The traditional Christmas meal was obviously designed by someone who had a lot of time on his or her hands. With giant birds, meat, vegetables and fruits being baked, braised, roasted and boiled it’s a meal which can be quite daunting even for the most experienced cook. When it comes down to the big day, though, we all want the same thing, good food enjoyed with family and friends, preferably stress free (though I can only help with the food!).

Sticky Figgy Pudding_2 copy

My recipes here for a fuss free Christmas dinner should keep everyone in the festive spirit. The turkey is simplified by butterflying the breast and stuffing it with a sweet fruit and breadcrumb mix, a method which makes for easy carving. As an alternative to the traditional Christmas Ham, treacle and star anise crispy pork belly makes an exciting addition to your Christmas dinner extravaganza and sides like perfect Parmesan crunchy roast potatoes and a cheesy brussel sprout gratin won’t even have you breaking a sweat! For me the true star of the show is a simple and elegant spiced Sticky Figgy Pudding, slathered in hot caramel sauce with a soft poached fig. Whatever you do choose to cook this year, prepare as much as you can in advance to make life as easy as possible and of course make sure to enjoy the big day!


Boned Rolled Turkey copy

{ Rolled Turkey Breast with Sweet Apricot Stuffing… }

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Rolled Turkey Breast with Sweet Apricot Stuffing

Boned Rolled Turkey copy

For an easier to carve option this Christmas day, try this rolled turkey breast, which is stuffed with a sweet and aromatic stuffing.

Serves 6
2kg turkey breast, skin on
50g of butter
Sea salt and ground black pepper

For the stuffing:
25g butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon thyme leaves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sage leaves, finely chopped
200g breadcrumbs
100g dried apricots, finely chopped
Sea salt and pepper

For the gravy:
250ml of white wine
250ml of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of plain flour

To make the stuffing, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and melt the butter.  Add in the onions and fry gently for 6 minutes until completely softened.  Place the rest of the stuffing ingredients in a mixing bowl and add the cooked onions.  Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and mix until completely combined. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Butterfly the turkey breast or ask your butcher to do it for you.  Lay it flat on a chopping board and pile on the stuffing down the centre.  Carefully, tightly roll it up and then using kitchen string tie it in 1 inch intervals.  Place the stuffed and tied breast in a roasting tray.  Rub all over with soft butter and season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Cover with tin foil and roast the turkey breast in the middle shelf of the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or 40 minutes per kg).  Check that it’s cooked by inserting a metal skewer to the centre to see that the skewer is very hot and the juices run clear when removed. Baste regularly throughout the cooking time. 15 minutes before the end of the cooking time, remove the foil and allow the skin to go golden brown.

Remove from the oven, transfer the breast to a chopping board and allow to rest under tin foil while you prepare the gravy. Place the roasting tray over a medium heat and whisk in the white wine to deglaze the tin.  Add in the chicken stock and reduce by half.  If you want a thicker sauce, add three tablespoons of the gravy liquid to a small bowl and whisk together with 1 tablespoon of plain flour.  When you have a smooth mixture whisk this back into the gravy and bubble away until it reduces the desired thickness.  Season with sea salt and ground black pepper. Carefully remove the string from the cooked turkey and then carve in generous slices.  Serve with the warm gravy and the Christmas sides of your choice.

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Plum & Star Anise Christmas Ham

Sweet, sticky and aromatic, this Christmas ham comes with serious sophistication. Like most good Christmas ham’s this recipe is ALL about the glaze. The combination of sweet orange, sticky plum jam and Asian star anise ticks all the boxes in terms of Christmas tastes.

Serves 8-10
4.5kg of ham
2 liters of water
1 large onion
1 tbsp black peppercorns
8 whole cloves, plus extra for garnish
3 star anise

150g plum jam
100g brown sugar
Juice of 1 orange
5 star anise

Place the ham in a large pot and pour in the water along with the onion, star anise, cloves and peppercorns. If the water doesn’t cover the ham, add more.

Bring to the boil and them simmer steadily for 40 minutes per kg (3 hours) After the cooking time, turn off the heat and allow to cool in the liquid.

In a small saucepan, add the orange juice, jam, sugar and star anise and cook gently until the sugar has dissolved and you are left with a slightly thick glaze. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 220°C.

When the ham has cooled, remove from the liquid before removing the skin, exposing the fat and scoring diagonally with a small sharp knife. Place the ham in a roasting tray and brush the plum glaze over the top of the ham. Push the cloves into each cross.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing thinly to serve.

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Leftover Turkey and Squash Thai Green Curry

This recipe is a total winner in my books. It’s full of fantastic  colour and flavour. You can adapt it quite easily by replacing the turkey with ham or fish or prawns.

Serves 4-6
1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
1kg of butternut squash (about 1 squash) peeled, deseeded and chopped into 1 inch cubes
200g of leftover turkey
1 large onion, roughly diced
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of Thai Green Curry paste
400ml of Coconut milk
250ml of chicken stock
300g of basmati rice

Place a medium sized pot over a medium high heat and add the oil.

Add in the onion and garlic and fry for five minutes until softened.

Add in the curry paste and stir fry for a further minute.

Add in the coconut milk, stock and squash and bring to the boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

Mix through the leftover turkey and the the curry is ready to serve.

Serve straight away with some warm rice.

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Turkey Tom Ka Gai

Tom Ka Gai is a Thai soup which is traditionally made of coconut milk, galanghal, lemongrass and ginger.  This is my twist on it using turkey instead of chicken.

Serves 2
250g of cooked turkey
100g of rice noodles
400ml of coconut milk
350ml of chicken stock
Juice of 1 lime
1 large thumb-sized piece of ginger
1 red chilli, finely chopped
6 spring onions, finely sliced
1 stalk of lemongrass, finely chopped
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 teaspoon of soft brown sugar
Handful of fresh coriander leaves

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside. Pour the stock and coconut milk into a medium sized pot and bring to a steady simmer. Add in the lime leaves, ginger, chilli, brown sugar and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add in the cooked turkey and stir through until heated through. Divide the noodles amongst four bowls, pour in the hot soup and garnish with springs onions and coriander.

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Crispy Ham Spring Rolls with a Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce

You can make these spring rolls with either turkey or ham or both.  If you have a lot of brussel sprouts leftover, you can finely chop them and add them in instead of the Chinese cabbage.

Makes 15 spring rolls
1 packet of spring roll skins (15)
2 cloves of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, finely minced
4 spring onions, roughly chopped
175g of leftover ham
150g of carrots, grated
150g of red peppers
200g of chinese cabbage
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine
1 teaspoon of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
Small handful of coriander stalk, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
Sunflower oil to fry

For the dipping sauce:
1 tablespoon of freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
5 tablespoons of soy sauce
small handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Heat a drop of oil in a large frying pan over a medium high heat and then add the ginger, spring onion and garlic.  Stir fry for about 1 minute.

Add in the carrots, red peppers, coriander stalks, soy sauce, rice wine, caster sugar and fry for a further 4-6 minutes.

Stir through the leftover ham and sesame oil and remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Whisk all the ingredients for the dipping sauce together and set aside.

Assemble the spring rolls one at a time, by placing one spring roll skin on a clean work surface and adding three dessert spoonfuls of the cooled mixture to the centre in a small sausage shape.

Brush the edges of the wrapper with beaten egg and then fold in each side in and then roll up tightly.

Fill a large high sided frying pan with 1-2cm of oil and then place this over a high heat.  Check that the oil is hot enough to fry the spring rolls by dipping one in and seeing if it bubbles vigourously.

Shallow fry the spring rolls for 3-4 minutes either side until they are left with an even golden colour all over.  Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

Serve the spring rolls straight away with the dipping sauce.

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Leftover Ham and Cheese Caramelised Onion Tart

This tart is not only delicious but also makes the most of leftover ham and cheese.  The true highlight of dish however is the caramelised red onions.

Serves 6-8
225g (8oz) Plain flour, Plus extra for dusting
a Pinch of Salt
125g (41/2oz) Cold Butter, Cut into Pieces
green Salad, to Serve

2 tbsp olive oil
4 large red onions, peeled, halved and sliced into half moons
Sea Salt and freshly ground Black pepper
3 large eggs
300ml (101/2fl oz) double Cream
150g (5oz) of leftover cheese, chopped up or crumbled
200g of leftover ham, chopped
a few fresh thyme sprigs, leaves only

A 28cm (11in) quiche tin with removable base

To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a pan, add the onions and gently fry for 10–15 minutes until soft and caramelised.

Season with salt and black pepper then remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool. This can be done well ahead of time.

To make the pastry, place the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and, using your fingertips, rub the butter into the flour until it resembles rough breadcrumbs.

Sprinkle over 1–2 tablespoons of water and bring the dough together to form a ball.

Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas mark 4 and place a baking tray on the middle shelf.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface and use to line the quiche tin. Prick the base with a fork and place on the baking tray in the oven for about 15 minutes until light and golden.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together until combined. Arrange the caramelised onions on the base of the pastry case, scatter over the crumbled cheese, ham and thyme leaves and season with salt and ground black pepper.

Gently pour the egg and cream mixture into the pastry case and bake in the oven for about 30–35 minutes or until the filling is set. Allow to cool then serve in generous slices with a green salad.

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Mega Turkey and Brie, Cranberry Chutney, Grilled Sambos


You can’t beat a grilled cheese sandwich, except at Christmas! Make this with leftover turkey, brie and cranberry relish and you will have on your hands the ultimate leftover sandwich!

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Cranberry Stuffed Chicken Wrapped in Pancetta with Pan Fried Brussel Sprouts

This dish is full of festive flavors and makes life simple for anyone not completely convinced on tackling a full traditional Christmas dinner this year.

Serves 4
2 tablespoons of butter
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
2 stalk of celery, finely chopped
100g of bread crumbs
60g of cranberries
60g of walnuts, toasted and finely chopped
1 sprig of rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of all spice
Zest of 1 orange
4 chicken breasts on the bone
8 rashers of pancetta
600g of brussel sprouts, washed and outer leaves and stalk removed
Sea salt and ground black pepper
Rapeseed oil

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

Place a large frying pan over a medium high heat heat, melt the butter until it foams, then fry the bacon until golden.

Add in the onion and celery and cook until tender.  Add in the breadcrumbs, cranberries, walnuts, rosemary, thyme, all spice, orange zest and season with sea salt and ground black pepper.  Stir through until combined.

Using a sharp knife, slice open the chicken breasts just enough to make a little pocket big enough to add the stuffing too.

Fill each of the chicken breasts with the stuffing and then wrap each one with pancetta.  Place the chicken breasts in a roasting tin and give a final seasoning of sea salt and ground black pepper and a drizzle of oil before popping in the oven.

Cook the chicken breasts for approximately 45 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

Remove the chicken from the oven and cover with tin foil while you prepare the brussel sprouts.

Place a large frying pan over a high heat and add a knob of butter and melt it until it foams.  Add in the brussels sprouts and cook until they are tender and have a nice golden colour.

Season with sea salt and ground black pepper and serve alongside the chicken breasts.

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Blue Cheese Soufflés

These make a very elegant Christmas starter and are quite easy to prepare. You can make these ahead of time and they will puff up again when you place them back in the oven.

Serves 6 individual portions
160g of blue cheese
40g self raising flour
40g of butter
340ml of milk
3 large eggs, separated
1 small onion cut in half
1 bay leaf
3 black pepper corns
A pinch of grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and flour 6 ramekins.

Pour the milk into a small pot and add the onion, bay leaf, peppercorns and grated nutmeg. Bring to a steady simmer slowly, then remove from the heat and strain into a pyrex jug.

Melt butter, in a small pot and add the flour to make a roux, whisking until it’s comined. Slowly add the warm milk until you have added it all and are left with a thick white sauce.

Transfer the sauce to a mixing bowl. Then whisk in the egg yolks and 3/4 of the cheese. Beat the egg whites until light and fluffy and forming soft peaks.
Divide the mixture amongst the ramekins and place in roasting tin.

Pour boiling water around the base of the ramekins and place in the oven for 15 minutes until risen.
Serve straight away in the ramekins or allow to cool slightly and remove from the ramekins and place on a lined baking sheet.

At this point you can keep the ramekins to serve the following day if you wish.  Just add a sprinkle of extra blue cheese and place in the oven to puff to puff back up!

Serve with a crisp winter salad!

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Christmas Rocky Road Squares

These little rocky road squares are perfect to serve up to any guests this festive season. They are very easy to make just be sure to melt the butter and condensed milk low and slow.

Makes 20 about squares
200g of dark chocolate, finely chopped
100g of condensed milk
30g of butter
100g of dried cranberries
200g of white chocolate, half chopped, half melted
100g of digestive biscuits, roughly crushed
200g of mini marshmallows
Zest of one small orange

Line a 20cm x 30cm baking tin with parchment paper. Save any parchment paper off cuts. In a large sauce pan melt the butter with the condensed milk. The second the butter has melted and mixed through the condensed milk, take it off the heat and stir in the chocolate until completely melted and combined. Add in the cranberries, white chocolate, biscuits, mini marshmallows and orange zest. Stir with a wooden spoon until completely combined. Tumble the mix out into the lined baking tin and press down using the parchment paper off cuts. Drizzle with white chocolate diagonally across the tray. Cover and allow to set in the fridge for up to 1-2 hours. Slice in to 12 pieces.

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